On Wednesday, June 3, Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective hosted a press conference via Zoom to address their demands for the Minneapolis City Council. Both organizations want to make Minneapolis free from police terror by defunding the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
The speakers, Black Visions Director Kandace Montgomery, artist and activist Junauda Petrus, activist-scholar and professor Dr. Rose Brewer, and Women for Political Change (WFPC) Education and Advocacy Director Felicia Philibert, started the conversation by emphasizing the importance of mutual aid.
“Mutual aid is the community coming together to meet people’s immediate needs. It is an anti-capitalist act of harm reduction,” Philibert says.
WFPC has organized a mutual aid fund to provide relief for communities most impacted by COVID-19 and the uprising, but Philibert says it is important to remember the difference between community action and charity.
“Mutual aid is not charity. Charity is made to make donors feel good about themselves but does nothing for long-term work to improve communities,” Philibert says.
While communities are coming together on a local level, Dr. Brewer says the deep resistance that is happening in the Twin Cities right now has reached a global solidarity, where people across the world are making “powerful and radical demands that will free so many of us.”
The group also made it clear that their mission to protect their communities is not a call for reform, but rather an entire social transformation.
“The question should not be ‘won’t it be dangerous to dismantle MPD?’. The truth is, it is dangerous NOT to dismantle it,” Montgomery says. “This is beyond police reform — there is no reforming the police department. We are calling for a total transformation. That is the only solution to keeping communities safe. Reform is just a band-aid fix to a more than 400-year-old problem. We need more.”
When we are talking about abolition, Dr. Brewer adds, we are talking about a theory of social change, which means all structures must be turned upside down.
“There were reforms of body cameras and stop-and-frisk, which, yes, was a reform, that led to the denigration of Black and brown folks,” Dr. Brewer says. “We need to imagine something beyond piecemeal changes. If we defend the community, if people are fed, if we have access to education, if we feel safe, that’s a transformative vision. That will lead to a different world.”
Petrus points out that for people in suburban areas, imagining a world without police is difficult to do because suburbs are not hyper-policed.
Philibert adds that there are folks who trust the police, and for that reason, have not had to form a deep connection with their community, and therefore cannot conceptualize that their community has the ability to keep itself safe. “We will need to do a lot of community building so people can realize that communities can do this and have been doing this work.”
Expanding on that point, Philibert says that the effort to abolish police doesn’t stop there — it is a step to liberation for everyone.
“Capitalism has destroyed the lives of Black folks around the country, wealth has been purposefully taken from them. When we abolish these systems of oppression (especially capitalism), that doesn’t just affect Black folks, but also poor folks, queer folks, etc. Capitalism tells us our productivity is our only value, so if we get rid of those norms, that will benefit everybody,” Philibert says.
On the recently announced charges against the three other cops responsible for the murder of George Floyd and the increased charges against Derek Chauvin, Montgomery says “that is not enough. We need more.”
“What we understand is that the family is celebrating this and we want to truly honor that this is one of the ways that they had to find justice, so we are sending a lot of love to the family who has been having to advocate while also grieving,” Montgomery says. “This is a horrible reality of too many Black families around the world. We all are at risk and cannot afford to have another family having to demand the same thing and not getting justice — that is why we are calling for the defunding of MPD and total social transformation.”
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